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Local artist shows love for hospitalized wife with drawings on Newton Medical Center window

Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 7:46 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Since the COVID-19 pandemic began we’ve seen people get creative with messages to loved ones they’re unable to visit with in-person in hospitals or care facilities, due to COVID-19.

In Newton, one local artist spent two weeks visiting his wife from outside of Newton Medical Center as she recovers from a stroke. But even when he left, drawings on her window remained, reminding her how much he loves her.

Almost daily for those two weeks, George Charlsen would walk from Newton Medical Center’s parking lot, around the side of the hospital with a lawn chair and a pack of dry-erase markers. Then, he’d set up outside his wife, Shirley’s window for about an hour and a half.

"We could put our cell phones on speaker, and they’d wheel her up as close to the window as they could, and we’d talk, Charlsen said.

To pass the time, he’d do what he knows best: create art. Charlsen was a commercial artist for 35 years.

The big sunshine he drew for Shirley isn’t the first one that’s popped up on a hospital window. Charlsen did the same for his previous wife about 20 years ago. Her organs shut down because of complications from Lupus, and she never came out of intubation.

“I did a big sun for her at one of the windows at Wesley, and I went by there two weeks after we left and the sun was still up,” he said. “I’ll never forget that.”

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping him and his current wife separated by a sheet of glass, Charlsen knew exactly what to do.

“It’s just a creative way, I guess, of saying, ‘I love you,’” he said.

Suns are his trademark. Hundreds of them line the pages of a book, full of notes from church sermons spanning decades. It was a way for Charlsen to keep his children entertained and quiet during services while the pastor spoke.

“That became a frequent request as I was drawing, ‘where’s the sun, daddy?'” he said.

And after drawing hundreds of shining suns, Charlsen let Shirley decide which one is her favorite.

“I sent the book in and told her to find the one that she liked, and I’d try to emulate it on the window,” he said.

Sometimes, Charlsen would include messages to his wife, as well.

“Which is a challenge because I have to write it backwards for her to be able to read it, and my writing backwards isn’t real great,” he said.

But regardless of penmanship, Charlsen said when the person you love is sick, you find a way.

“We were lucky. She’s on the ground floor here,” he said.

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